Happy Birthday Ralph Lauren

To celebrate Ralph Lauren’s birthday this week, I thought it would be interesting to take a look into the history of the world’s most digitally innovative fashion brand.

The brand was founded by its namesake in 1967 and now boasts over 600 stores worldwide. In 2000, Ralph Lauren launched its online store, one of the first luxury brands to do so, during a time when many were skeptical about online shopping. Jennifer Sokolowsky from Brand Channel explains “luxury brands are all about creating an exclusive experience – or the perception of one”. It was thought that by selling online, a brand’s exclusivity would lessen due to the unprecedented access that consumers have to the brand and its products. However, Ralph Lauren reflected their marketing ideology of “merchantainment” to create interest not in its individual products, but in the entire brand itself as a lifestyle that customers could buy. RalphLauren.com is now 12 years old and amongst hosting an incredibly successfully online store, it gives visitors access to the Ralph Lauren’s personal Style Guide, celebrity interviews on RL TV, and travel, sport and food information in its quarterly online lifestyle magazine, RL Magazine.

Instead of the traditional product displays both in store and on online stores, Ralph Lauren aims for interactivity in the buying process. In 2005, Ralph Lauren was the first retail brand to live-stream its runway collection online for immediate purchase. Users could click and purchase brand new items as the models walked down the catwalk. In 2006, Ralph Lauren introduced the first shoppable windows in their New York stores, taking the term “window-shopping” literally. Passersby could view products through an interactivity television display and make purchases. Typically, there is a six-month delay between the debut runways and when the items land in stores. In 2010, the RL Gang online storybook was released which features characters wearing Ralph Lauren childrenswear that can be bought as the story progresses. This attributed to a 300% jump in children’s clothing sales.

Without a doubt the most digitally innovative project by Ralph Lauren was the world’s first public 4D show involving 3D digital mapping, sound effects and scent diffusion. The short film, which was projected onto the buildings of Ralph Lauren’s flagship New York and London stores, featured a runway show and a polo game. Most impressively, when the film honoured Ralph Lauren’s signature perfume range, perfume was actually sprayed from the windows of the building showering the crowd beneath (see video below). The event was a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of RalphLauren.com and signaled a future of digitally forward and creative initiatives from the luxury brand.


Regulating Social Media

Following a complaint to the Australia Advertising Standards Board, a judgment was made that comments by “fans” on Smirnoff Vodka’s Facebook page were considered “advertisements” and must therefore comply with industry regulatory codes and consumer protection laws.

The watchdog heard that a fan of the Facebook page commented that Smirnoff was “the purest Russian vodka” and would lead to success with the opposite sex. John Swinson, a partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons explained to The Age that Smirnoff is Australian, not Russian and it may not be the purest. The comment also implies that you would have greater success with girls also contravenes Australian advertising codes. Industry codes not only apply to what a company posts on its Facebook page, but also to user-generated comments that followed. As the comments weren’t removed, Smirnoff was held liable for the actions of its “fan”.

Brands are increasingly relying on Facebook “word-of-month” to reach, not only fans, but also their social circles. There is currently very little legislation that governs the use of social media by brands and the decision handed down to Smirnoff just a few weeks ago has already caused havoc in the corporate world. Particularly for larger companies, constantly monitoring social media pages is impossible.

Activity can’t be completely controlled, but it can be managed. When a member of the public posts a complaint or an inaccurate statement on Facebook, companies need to respond immediately clarifying the issue. The problem facing corporations and their adverting agencies is that the Internet doesn’t close down at 5pm everyday nor does online activity cease over the weekend. If anything, user activity on social media increases after business hours. This poses a great challenge particularly to large corporations like Smirnoff who have a following of over 180 000 people.

Recent consumer trends would suggest that the risks of social media are only minor compared to its benefits. Consumers are increasingly using the Internet, and in particular Facebook, to research brands and products before making purchases. 85 per cent of Australians who are connected to the Internet use it as a resource to research, compare and seek advice about their shopping. 61 per cent use search engines, 50 per cent check the brand’s website, and 23 per cent use Facebook (source). I would challenge the last figure. Realistically, it is probably higher considering that a Google search will return the brand’s Facebook page and brand websites have links to their social media pages. Most consumers may not be going directly to Facebook, but they are certainly being directed there.

It is impossible to completely control the activity of users and fans, but strategies should be implemented to manage activity on public pages. Companies don’t have a choice: they need to be using social media as a marketing tool to positively promote their brands and now they must also comply with rapidly evolving standards and legislation.

The Kiwi Sceptics

The Kiwi Sceptics is an online-only reality series that launched in Februrary 2012. Each episode of the Air New Zealand campaign follows an Australian ‘Kiwi Sceptic’ on their surprise journey across the ‘ditch’ to NZ. Each episode focuses on a particular type of sceptic like ‘The Hipster’ who thinks New Zealand is overrun by sheep and ‘The Bali Girl’ who prefers beach resorts and day spas. Sceptics are paired with a New Zealand entertainment personality who joins them on a specifically tailored trip based on the sceptics’ interests.

The campaign is the airline’s largest in the Australian market in the last 10 years. The focus on Australian sceptics came after research discovered that while there are 5.3 million Aussies who would consider New Zealand as a holiday destination, only one in five of these people actually made it across the ‘ditch’. The creative online content was aimed at the young and young-at-heart with the aim of breaking down traditional stereotypes that Aussie’s have of New Zealand. The mini-series depicts something for everyone, whether it is the picturesque scenery, thrill-seeking adventures or the inviting local culture.


The campaign was supported by the Nine Entertainment Company, which hosted a Kiwi Sceptics page within the ninemsn website. The rollout specifically bombarded Australian news and entertainment websites such as TheAge.com with advertising banners and video commercials and the series has received over 12 million views on Youtube.

After the online hype of the campaign had begun to subside, Air New Zealand released a final episode following Lara Bingle on a winter escape (see below). The latest episode reinvigorated the series’ social media presence as the promotion with Bingle heavily tapped into her extensive fan followings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Air New Zealand took a leap in their choice of online content over traditional television advertisements and it certainly paid off. The airline won advertising awards for its ‘Branded Content and Entertainment’ at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.





Welcome to Let’s Get Digital

Marketing has come a long way since the Production Era where at the very beginning of capitalism it was believed that “supply creates its own demand” (Say’s Law of Market). In the new Social Era of marketing, companies need to utlise the new tools and avenues that the Internet has created for advertising. There is an open-flow of information about us available online and our connectedness means that advertising has become heavily concentrated, targeting ultra specific audiences. Marketers need to be willing to adopt new practices as they rapidly develop and implement them more effectively than their competitors.

Living in an increasingly digitalised world, the Internet has become deeply ingrained into our day-to-day lives. It is no wonder that marketers have tapped into our connectedness within the online world. Let’s Get Digital examines the initiatives of the world’s most innovative companies that are leading the way in online marketing.